Thursday, 1 May 2014

An Irish writer's lament

For many Northern Irish novelists the 1990's were particularly lean years. The country was in the news so often some wag labelled 'Northern Ireland' the two most boring words in the language.

Literary agents didn't want to know. Many agencies included No IRA Stories in their Submission Guidelines. And who could blame them when the real thing, not fiction, dominated newspaper headlines and TV newscasts?

Lean times indeed.

At the time I was engaged in writing what I believed to be the great Irish novel. Sadly, London agents I queried took a different view. I was not prepared to pay someone to publish my masterpiece and so it was abandoned, but not forgotten. I got on with my life ...

Times changed.

I discovered the internet, only ten years or so behind everybody else. The same with mobile phones. With a sense of near disbelief I read about self-publishing. You mean, I could actually bring out my novels in both print and e-book formats myself? No more long hours agonizing over query letters and synopses. No more long waits for rejection letters This was progress. Progress, too, in my home country. Peace had come to 'Norn Iron' and with it the emergence of much new writing talent. Men and women who had lived through tough times, heard the gunfire and bombs, the sometimes horrific reports. They had a well of experience to draw on.

And suddenly publishers and agents opened their arms in welcome.

Me? In the past year I've published four novels and a few short stories. I'm happy. And I've saved the best for last. Currently I'm polishing the cast-aside-but-not-forgotten masterpiece. Some sections surprise me. After so long, it's like reading a stranger's work.

Wish me luck!

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